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A dispute that started during Ramadan between a northeast Minneapolis restaurant owner and the city has led to allegations of police and city harassment, along with a drop in his business.

Michael Mokhalad, owner of Mrs. Dessert & Kumpir, had sought a temporary license to extend his hours during Ramadan this spring. Such licenses became available in 2015 after the city approved an ordinance allowing businesses to apply to stay open late during the Islamic holy month.

Mokhalad said that although he never heard back from the city about his license application, he stayed open after hours. Now he said he's looking for a new location after receiving four citations from the city — enforcement that began, according to city records, after a fight and shooting near his business in late March.

He said business has fallen even more since Ramadan, a drop he attributes to a "bad reputation" in the community over his issues with the city. One Google review of the business said his restaurant "has become a hotspot for late night crime, which they refuse to do anything about."

"Sales have dropped; it's really, really bad," Mokhalad said. "People are saying my business is bringing the crime and violence."

After receiving the four citations for staying open after permitted hours, he said he's looking for a new location for his restaurant. He said he's lost two employees who cited concerns about the police presence there.

"Police are harassing me and the rest of the customers and the employees," Mokhalad said.

Minneapolis police officials declined to comment for this story.

Mrs. Dessert & Kumpir opened in late 2023 in the Holland neighborhood, bringing Middle Eastern pastries and street food to the Twin Cities. It was Mokhalad's first venture into business ownership and his introduction to the northeast Minneapolis community.

Mokhalad said he inquired about a temporary license to extend his hours beyond 10 p.m. during Ramadan, which started on March 10. In the holy month, Mokhalad said, there's always a rush after sunset when Muslims are allowed to break their fast. Many show up later at night after going first to pray, he said.

A city inspector sent Mokhalad application materials to extend his hours. He said he signed and turned them in. He then began staying open until about 3 a.m. Business picked up, he said.

"I was selling almost 300 pieces of each flavor of the cake," he said.

The conflict between Mokhalad and the city began after an early morning shooting on March 24 in the same block as his restaurant. After a fight involving a large group of people, two men ages 21 and 17 went to Hennepin Healthcare with noncritical gunshot wounds. No one has been arrested, and it's unclear where exactly the shooting occurred.

In an email from a public records request filed by the Sahan Journal, Amy Duncan Lingo, business licensing manager for Minneapolis, said she was notified about the shooting the next day. She said Mokhalad's restaurant lacked a permit or license to operate later.

Because the incident involved a fight and shooting, the city issued Mokhalad a $200 citation, Lingo said. "It was made clear that they were not to be open without approval," she said.

On March 27, police returned to the restaurant for a follow-up inspection and found it again operating past 10 p.m. The city issued a second citation for $400.

"Mr. Mokhalad told me of their struggles with slow business in the morning, which I understood, but I stated again that his opening late unauthorized ... created a dangerous environment for the neighborhood," Lingo wrote.

She said she would not process his application until an inspector approved Mokhalad's security plan.

Another incident on April 2 "showed not only that they were still open beyond approved hours but that them being open was creating an unstable and dangerous situation," Lingo wrote.

An $800 citation was then issued.

When the city forced him to close at 10 p.m., Mokhalad said, his sales dropped by 85%. "Every single night, more than 20 missed calls from people," he said.

He said police increased their presence outside his business around closing time during Ramadan. He said they sometimes would park outside with lights on and tell customers showing up after 10 p.m. that the business was closed.

One of the citations obtained by the Sahan Journal said Mokhalad was notified that his business must "close, and customers vacate the premises by 10 p.m." He said he turned off his "open" sign at that time but continued to serve people who had come in before closing. "I have to sell them," Mokhalad said.

A city spokeswoman said Mokhalad's application to temporarily extend his hours was filed "after the initial citations." The restaurant owner said he submitted it before his first citation, though to the wrong precinct office.

He received another citation, he said, for setting up a table and chairs outside. He said he was told he could apply for a permit for outdoor seating.

"I didn't apply yet because I know what the result is going to be," Mokhalad said.

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This story comes to you from Sahan Journal, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering Minnesota's immigrants and communities of color. Sign up for a free newsletter to receive Sahan's stories in your inbox.